Open Book Blog Hop – First drafts

Do you hurry through a first draft, or are you conscious of flaws as they go down? Has that changed over time?

This really is an interesting question. I do believe that, for me, this particular aspect of writing has changed over time.

My children’s books are quite short at just under 600 words. This is the standard length for a picture book. They don’t require an awful lot of editing but I always read the proofs carefully and my publisher also goes through them. I’ve still found the odd error in them, but not enough to worry about. I have more issues with the pictures in the ebook that often seem to distort. It really bothers me when that happens.

My first longer children’s book, Silly Willy Goes to Cape Town, was also edited by my publisher and myself. I haven’t picked up many errors in it but it was only 33 000 words and my writing style has changed a lot since I wrote it. I still think it is a fun story but I have progressed a lot with showing and not telling as well as writing dialogue since I wrote this book in 2017.

My three most recent books have all been through a long editing process. The first one, While the Bombs Fell, was written and edited firstly by me, and then my mother had a go at it. It is her story and I wanted her to be happy with all the details so we went through it word-for-word three times. I had the most wonderful developmental edit of this book by Charli Mills. As a result of her advice, I turned the whole story around and added a lot of the historical elements to the book. Her advice about developing a timeline of the historical events and overlaying my mother’s life over it was excellent. I’ve subsequently developed timelines for both Through the Nethergate and my nearly completed novel, A Ghost and His Gold. The timeline for this latest novel is included in the book to help readers with the main events of the Anglo Boer War which is the main setting for this story.

Through the Nethergate was edited by me, developmentally edited by the talented Esther Chilton, who also gave me some fantastic advice and ideas, and then edited by my mother and my husband. I gave it another read before sending it to my publisher and she also read it and gave me changes. I haven’t found a lot of mistakes in this book either, although there are a few that slipped through.

A Ghost and His Gold started life as a short story of 5 000 words which grew to 30 000 words. I had this draft novella developmentally edited by Esther Chilton and a few of her comments triggered a series of new ideas. The book has swelled to 116 000 words. I sent the enlarged version back to Esther who undertook another developmental edit which helped me close out a few lose threads in the story line. I also changed the writing style for one section at her suggestion. I am pleased with the amended version and am grateful for the good advice I received. This book has subsequently been edited by my mom and my sister and I am now doing my final read before sending it to my publisher. It will get a further edit from Anne and she always finds things that need correcting.

Reading the above, I realise I go through five rounds of editing for each book. That is in addition to the editing I do as I go along. I am not a fast writer. I never churn out more than 1 500 words in one sitting and sometimes its as little as 700 words. I spend a lot of time researching and then reworking my writing for each paragraph so its as good as I can get it before I move on. Despite this careful editing as I go along, I always make changes after each chapter has “rested” for a few weeks.

I am happy to note that my developmental edits are far less extensive now than they were for my first book. I can say the same about my short stories which have only needed small changes and not big reworks.

I work very hard at ensuring I incorporate all the advice I’ve received from my developmental edits and from other people who kindly take the time to read and comment on my prompt writing and extracts, into my stories going forward.

This is for my books. I am not as good at editing my blog posts. Sigh! I try, but there is only so much time in a day and I spend at least two hours a week writing book reviews and eight to ten hours a week writing and editing. I also work a 35 to 40 hour week, and sometimes more if we are on a deadline, and I spend time with my boys. I also read a book a week and listen to two audio books a month.

Do other blog-hoppers hurry through first drafts?  Click below to find out:


Link your blog to this hop.
Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.
Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.
Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.
Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

42 thoughts on “Open Book Blog Hop – First drafts

  1. I read your post and the “party” posts with a great deal of interest, albeit not 100% agreement with the writing advice/rules.

    I try to hurry through a first draft so that I get to the best part: revising! However, the editor who lives inside my head slows me down more often than I would like. I view a first draft as the raw materials of fiction. Once I have my raw materials, then I can shape them into the story I wanted to write when I started.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Liz, I suppose we all have our own writing styles and preferences. I am very neat and obsessive so I can’t just write and move on. I must struggle with each section and get it right before moving on. I prefer to work that way. Others, write the whole book and then go back. I think I would find so much editing at once overwhelming.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed hearing about your writing process, Robbie. I think in some respects we handle drafts the same way….I go over my first draft time and again, section by section as I write, By the time I reach the end of he novel, it’s pretty much polished because I’ve done the bulk of my editing during the developmental process.

    At the same time, I’m working with critique partners who offer feedback and suggestions, chapter by chapter. The final draft is given another 1-2 read throughs by me before it goes to an editor. I’m anal about making that first draft as near to perfection as I can get it while I’m writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mae, thanks for sharing your writing process. I think we are quite similar in this, and many others ways. I’ve noticed it before. You are fortunate to have such a great critique group. I have recently joined a writing group but haven’t got a critique group. I haven’t seen anything like this in South Africa or even the UK. It seems to be more of an America idea.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve noticed the same thing before too, Robbie 🙂

        If you want to hook up with critique partners, I would suggest looking online. All of my CPs are other writer friends I’m close with online. You could just ask someone if they’d like to share critiques. It took me over a year to find the right person, and then we added two others. We’ve been working together now for about two years, and it’s a great fit for us.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I always find it fascinating to see how each person approaches writing. I’m of the write all first then worry about editing. My blogs I do go over several times. Good post, Robbie:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is so interesting to me, Denise. My main problem in life is that I try to do to many things at the same time, especially with reviews and blog posts which I squeeze in between everything else I do. Writing for my books has dedicated hours that I set aside for it in the early morning so I don’t get disturbed.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow Robbie, you are amazing and you have a full time job on top of all this.

    I appreciate this post so much. I have already lost steam on my first ever first/ zero draft. Not sure what happened.

    This post helped me understand your rounds and process a bit. I am quite clueless about writing a book. Thanks for sharing.

    I am terrible with edits of blog post. I need to get better. I am on a couple of writing courses and they are helpful. But I can be so terrible writing posts on my phone.!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I write pretty much the same way as you do Robbie. I edit as I go, edit as I reread what I wrote yesterday, and because I often take week-long breaks between writing sessions, I read and edit again the whole of what I’ve written to date. Then, at the end, I edit, send for beta reading, edit, send for professional editing, edit, pass through one last time, then publish.

    So yeah, I’m an advocate for edit as you go. I know people will tell you not to do this, but my answer is, do what works for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. there is so little I know about the book-writing process, that I always enjoy these behind the scenes glimpses of what it takes to bring a book from idea to finished product. Good luck wrapping up a Ghost and His Gold!

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s